Outline: Ozlem on Feminism YS08

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The lecture will include two parts:

Part I:

The discussion of the relation between gender and class from a Marxist feminist point of view and a political discussion of different strategies in advancing the women’s liberation movement in the general context of anti-capitalist, socialist struggle.

Reading list for Part I:

1- FI World Congress Resolution 1979 (Socialist Revolution and the Struggle for Women’s Liberation)

2- Resolution on women in West Europe/North America 1991 Changing Forms of the Struggle for Women’s Liberation)

3- Resolution on women in Latin America 1991 (Dynamics of Mass Movements and Feminist Currents)

4- Notebooks of IIRE, No:22, Women’s Lives in the New Global Economy, Introduction: Women and Economic Integration.


A discussion of the basic feminist and Marxist arguments about the roots of women’s oppression:

Women’s movement, even though it has a common understanding about the oppression of women because of their gender, differs about the roots of this oppression and strategies that must be developed in struggling against it. We will briefly discuss different feminist theories about the roots of women’s oppression. From a very general perspective we can say that while a group of women takes patriarchy as the sole cause of the oppression, another group takes capitalism to be this basic cause. Against these two simplified forms of explanation, we will try to come to an understanding of an integrative relation between patriarchy and capitalism. In doing this we will discuss the basic tools that classical Marxist theory provides us to understand women’s oppression and how we can further develop these theoretical tools against the shortcomings of the classical Marxist analysis itself and its dogmatic interpretations which resist integrating gender factor into class analysis. We will continue by putting emphasis on the Marxist concept of “social reproduction” to come to a historical materialist understanding of the roots and the character of women’s oppression. This discussion will provide us to understand, from a historical materialist point of view, the complex relation between gender and class, patriarchy and capitalism, that is, how they are internally related.

A presentation of women’s situation under the new global economy: In order to come to a better understanding of the internal relation between patriarchy and capitalism, we have to look at how women are disproportionately affected from the brutal economic realities of globalization. The first fact is that women have to bear a greater burden of labor due to the cuts in social services either in the name of structural adjustment plans in third world or welfare reforms in the West. The economic integration of women has resulted in the proletarianization of women and the womanization of poverty in the world scale. They are not only forced into the work-force as “contingent” and “flexible” work-force, but are also led to more household labor in order to compensate the reduction of the social services. They are forced to migrate and subject to trafficking. They are continually subject to sexual violence, not yet in full possession of the control of their processes of reproduction, subject to racism and the ones suffering most under the war and militarism, and under the attack of fundamentalist religious movements. Then the question is how we should understand these phenomena and what kind of strategies we should develop against. We insist that a Marxist analysis of capitalism blind to gender factor –race as well- is not capable of providing a complete analysis of these phenomena and a feminism which is not anti-capitalist at the same time is not capable of promoting complete liberation of women.

Re-building or continuing women’s liberation movement: Our orientation, strategies and demands:

From our discussions above, we can conclude that feminist movement is not a “partial” movement next to others and that any anti-capitalist, socialist struggle must integrate feminist struggle and its demands into its programmatic approach. However, this is not to forget that women’s movement is a struggle against a “specific” form of oppression and requires a “specific” experience of struggle in order to overthrow this oppression. This is to recognize and defend the autonomy of women’s liberation movement. To keep the class perspective in our feminist analysis does not mean in any case that we take a sectarian position in a pluralist, autonomous women’s movement or gathering of different women around general demands. On the contrary, we contribute in building such a movement. On the other hand we work for providing an anti-capitalist perspective to the movement as well as working for the feminization of the class-movement and its organizations. We will generate questions and a debate about contributing to the re-building of a feminist movement from our concrete experiences in our localities and in the global, international movement and the different strategies and tactics and different organizational forms as part of these strategies and tactics we can develop today.

Part II: Feminism and Islam

For this part, I send the text of the presentation that we prepared for last year’s Youth School with Ece. I will slightly change it according to the discussions we had about headscarf in Turkey the whole winter, but the main idea remains the same.

Reading List for Part II:

1- For a general introduction, I recomend: Gilbert Achar, Eleven Theses on the Resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism

2- Alex Cowper, Why we should defend Secularism?

3- Salma Yaqoop, Islam and the Left

4- Letter from an Iranian reader, A reply to Selma Yakoop

5- Tariq Ali, The Anti-Imperialist Left Confronted with Islam